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Makarora River Fishing

The Makarora River is easy to access but for this reason is heavily fished. The strong-flowing upper reaches provide exciting, unpredictable angling in a beautiful pristine environment.

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Fish type Brown and rainbow trout, salmon.

The Makarora is the northernmost tributary of Lake Wanaka, traveling 18km through a deep, narrow gorge into a tussock-covered valley before spilling into the lake.

SH6 follows the river from Davis Flat down to Lake Wanaka.


Access map
Access map with topography

LINZ topographic maps: 1:50,000 (260 series)

Check conditions View the MetService weather forecast for Wanaka.

The Makarora is a powerful river made up of a mixture of runs, riffles and long powerful glides set against a backdrop of beech forest and high mountains.

With such a large, mountainous catchment, the river is also flood-prone and unpredictable. During severe storms, trout can be swept downstream and back into the lake at times. The water often appears to have a turquoise colour from the very fine silt from the snow melt but visibilty remains good except during severe flooding.

Fish stocks are limited in the upper reaches above Young River, due mainly to the river’s proximity to the main highway and the very easy access allowing increased pressure on the fishery by large numbers of anglers. Consequently. fishing either early or late in the season can be the most productive times when fish stocks are higher and angling pressure lowest.

Trout and salmon can be found at the mouth of the lake particularly in March and April when they are feeding on the schools of whitebait.

This is a very beautiful river to fish in one of the most scenic areas of New Zealand.

Methods No one method is preferred. Weather conditions often dictate the type of fishing with there being excellent dry fly fishing on occassions though nymph fishing remains the most popular method. Spinning is also very popular as is wetlining in the lower reaches near the lake.
Upper reaches


The Davis, Kiwi and Cameron flats are good fishing areas in the upper reaches, though they are highly fished with the fish becoming very spooky during the warm summer months.

Davis Flat is located before the highway bridge crosses the river. Blind casting into the faster and deeper water with a weighted nymph is the most popular method.

Kiwi Flat is 1km further downstream and offers 2km of accessible water. A bank above the river provides a good vantage point for spotting trout.

Camerons Flat is another 2km downstream from Kiwi Flat and provides a gently sloping, gravel riverbed. Trout often feed along the shallow edges of the river and can be easy to spot (and easy to spook). Great care and strealth is required.

Fish numbers and size

Fish numbers are not high though many reach very good sizes.


From the main road, there is access at any point along the upper reaches where the road follows the course of the river. At Davis Flat there is a rest area near the river and vehicle access. At Kiwi and Cameron flats it is possible to access the river on foot from the road.

See the access map.

Lower reaches


Cameron Flat is approximately 3kms downsteam from Rainy Flat. This section is a series of long runs and glides and the most productive fishing is at the head and tail of the slower runs. There is also excellent fishing in the section below the small settlement of Makaroa. The river is larger here and is suitable for all mthods. There is very good fishing along the shallow channels and weed beds where the river flows into the lake.

Fish numbers and size

Fish numbers are higher where the river moves away from the main highway. Fish from the lake enter the river and can be caught along this stretch.


Access is similar to the upper reaches; it is merely a matter of parking the car and walking across open tussock ground to the river. Most of the river bank is open and easy to walk.

See the access map.

Recommended tackle

A rod of 5 - 7 weight with a floating line for dry fly and nymphing or if wet lining a fast sinking line to get the lure down in the strong current..

When spinning use 3kg+ line and reasonable heavy lures (10 - 14grams) to ensure the lure gets as deep as possible.

Recommended lures

Nymphs: Hare and Copper, Hare’s Ear, Woolly Caddis, Stonefly, Pheasant Tail. in sizes 12 - 16.

Dry flies: Adams, Grouse & Purple, Humpy, Kakahi Queen, Molefly, Coch-y-Bondhu, Royal Wulff, Black Gnat, Twilight Beauty, Dad’s Favourite, Blue Dun, Dark Red Spinner.

Wet flies: Smelt patterns such as Grey Ghost, Parson's Glory or Ginger Mick..

Spinners: Greenwell’s Glory, Mrs Simpson, Hamill’s Killer, Veltic, silver, black and gold Hexagon wobblers, Z-Spinner, Glimmy, Toby.

Tributaries The three tributaries to the Makarora River (on the west):
- Blue River
- Young River
- Wilkin River
offer good fishing especially early and late in the season.
Regulations (1)
Applicable to Makarora River upstream of Wilkin River confluence
Region Otago regulations
Season 1 Nov-31 May
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit 1
Size limit (cm) None
Regulations (2)
Applicable to Makarora River downstream of Wilkin River confluence
Region Otago regulations
Season All year
Methods Artificial fly, spinner
Bag limit 1
Size limit (cm) None


Lime Tree Lodge

Lime Tree Lodge

Aspiring fishing guides

Aspiring Flyfishing guide


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